Brian Gaither Pleads Guilty in Death of Latisha Frazier

Brian Gaither pleaded guilty today to first-degree murder in the death of 18-year-old Latisha Frazier. Gaither’s trial began Monday; jury selection was due to begin next week.

In May, Gaither rejected a plea offer that would have capped his sentence at 38 years. In entering the plea today he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. Prosecutors however have promised to ask for a sentence of no more than 32 years in prison.

Police and prosecutors believe that Frazier was the victim of a brutal attack by six people in Aug. 2010. According to court documents, the 18-year-old was beaten, stomped, bound, taped, gagged, prodded and choked. Her head was covered with a sheet. Tossed into a closet, she finally died. Her body was thrown into a dumpster and hasn’t been found, though it’s believed to be in a landfill.

Gaither was one of six people arrested in connection with Frazier’s death. Cinthya Proctor and Laurence Hassan have each pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in connection with the case.

Johnnie Sweets, the last remaining defendant, is scheduled for trial in the case in April.

Related charges against Aneka Nelson and Lanee Bell are listed as “pending grand jury” in the D.C. Superior Court system.

According to a proffer of evidence Gaither made Tuesday,

On or about August 1, 2010, the defendant Brian Gaither was present in an apartment located at **** Trenton Place S.E., Washington, D.C., when Johnnie Sweet discovered that approximately $900 dollars, which he had stored for safekeeping at that location, had been stolen. Johnnie Sweet was furious, and the group (including defendant Brian Gaither, Laurence Hassan, Cinthya Proctor, and Aneka Nelson) discussed who had stolen the money. The group, including the defendant, suspected that Latisha Frazier was responsible. The group, including the defendant, was angry at Frazier for having stolen the money. After a discussion, the group, including the defendant, decided and agreed to invite Frazier over to **** Trenton Place S.E., and when she arrived, they planned to go to the back bedroom where the females would beat her to “teach her a lesson” for having stolen the money.

Gaither’s defense attorney, Eugene Ohm, filed a motion for continuance last week in order to have time to seek an insanity defense. At that time, Ohm argued that insanity was their strongest defense and that Gaither should not be punished for his attorney’s mistakes. Judge William Jackson denied the continuance.

On Monday, Ohm filed a motion for sanctions against the government for failure to disclose information that would have helped him pursue an insanity defense. Jackson denied that motion stating that Gaither had no prior diagnosis of mental issues related to insanity.

Jackson further argued that the defense had information of Gaither’s treatment for depression, anger issues and substance abuse for two years but never pursued an insanity defense until the eleventh hour.

“All of this stuff has been in transcripts for two years,” Jackson said. “It seems quite clear to me that this is a desperate attempt to avoid going to trial, and that Mr. Gaither will do anything to continue the trial.”

Ohm filed another motion Monday to suppress statements made by Gaither to detectives in which he confessed to killing Frazier. Judge Jackson denied the request stating that the admission was voluntary and not coerced.

Ohm did not respond to a request for comment on the case Tuesday. Prosecutor Chris Kavanaugh referred questions to US Attorney’s Office Spokesman Bill Miller, who declined to comment beyond the press release.

According to the plea documents, Gaither accepted responsibility for Frazier’s death by pleading guilty to first-degree murder. In exchange, the remaining six crimes he was charged with including kidnapping and felony murder were dismissed. Prosecutors agree to not pursue a sentence longer than 32 years in prison.

According to the plea documents, the offer was made yesterday and would have expired at 5 p.m. today (Tuesday).

A press release from the US Attorney’s Office is below.

District Man Pleads Guilty to First-Degree Murder In Kidnapping and Killing of 18-Year-Old Latisha Frazier - After Murder, Defendant Disposed of the Victim’s Body in Dumpster-

WASHINGTON - Brian Gaither, 25, of Washington, D.C., pled guilty today to a charge of first-degree murder stemming from the kidnapping and murder in August 2010 of 18-year-old Latisha Frazier, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced.

Gaither pled guilty in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to the charge of first-degree murder, days before he was go on trial in the case. He is to be sentenced Feb. 1, 2013 by the Honorable William M. Jackson. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

According to a statement of facts signed by the defendant and submitted to the Court, Gaither was one of the leaders of a group of six young men and women who took part in the murder of Ms. Frazier.

On Aug. 1, 2010, Gaither and others decided that they would invite Ms. Frazier to an apartment in the 1700 block of Trenton Place SE to “teach her a lesson” because they suspected – with little evidence – that she had stolen $900 from one of them. During a discussion, they developed a plan to lure Ms. Frazier to a small bedroom, where they would beat her.

The next day, the group gathered at the residence to carry out the plan. Ms. Frazier, as planned, was invited to the residence and, upon her arrival, she was led to the bedroom. The group proceeded to strike Ms. Frazier. The females started to beat Ms. Frazier and she cried for them to stop. Gaither then joined in the attack, punching, kicking, and stomping on Ms. Frazier, and beating her until she was unconscious. The group decided to bind Ms. Frazier with tape around her wrists and ankles and then put her in a closet. At that time, Ms. Frazier was still alive. As she began to moan from the closet, Gaither returned to the bedroom and choked her.

Later that day, someone checked on Ms. Frazier and reported to the group that the victim was dead.

Upon learning that Ms. Frazier had died, Gaither took part in a discussion about what to do with her body. The next day, he and others carried the body to a bathtub, where he and others attempted to dismember it. The defendant then placed Ms. Frazier’s body into a large plastic crate, which he threw into a dumpster in the 1700 block of Trenton Place SE.

Ms. Frazier’s body was never recovered and is believed to be in one of two landfills in rural Virginia. Gaither is among a number of people arrested in this case and has been in custody since January 2011.

In announcing the guilty plea, U.S. Attorney Machen praised the work of those who investigated the case for the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), including detectives from the Major Case/Cold Case Squad and the Seventh District. He also expressed appreciation for the efforts of those who handled the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Larry Grasso of the Criminal Intelligence Unit, Victim/Witness Advocate Marcia Rinker, and Paralegal Specialists Kwasi Fields, Phalyn Hunt, and Angela Lawrence. Finally, he thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher R. Kavanaugh and Melinda Williams, who prosecuted the case.

This post has been updated.

This post originally stated that Gaither had pleaded guilty to kidnapping. The kidnapping charge was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

Penny Ray contributed to this report.

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